The scene was taking way longer than Ginger cared to endure. The director, Wazz Gimbly, as usual, sought a perfection that rarely manifested. He insisted on take after take. Nothing was “good enough” or “Louder”/”Softer”/”More of that one thing and less of that other thing…”. Her current fellow performer, Rick Hammer, was beginning to show his disapproval by a rapidly declining ability to maintain as the minutes bleed into hours. The action had gone on hold due to something involving a lamp throwing shadows just out of the director’s peripheral. She was grateful for the breaks. Certain parts were getting sore, especially her patience.
“I can’t work like this!!!” Wazz exclaimed in a shrill so piercing a dog could hear it a mile away. He threw his arms up and began wandering around the set in a random half-circle. The sequins on his jacket sparkled like a million galaxies under the forced lighting. He looked like a flamboyant comet meandering its way through the universe.
Ginger let out a soft giggle.
Rick, looking up from his phone, “Are we done here? I’ve got a photo shoot and a pair of twins to do.” His German accent was thick and quite noticeable. “You can always get a stunt jock to finish this scene. I need to shower and get ready.” His money-maker still had some life in it or so he would have you believe. Rumors abound about his increasing need for “supplements” and other artificial needs to aid performance. Forty years in a business where your ability to stay and last is center point to your hiring potential will wear down the mightiest of men. Rick Hammer was no exception. He was on his way to pasture and this was just another step down the path to retirement and a place in porn history.
Ginger’s career was peaking. She was afraid that being outted as a transgender person would have killed all future projects or worse still be forever frozen in a niche market of fetish porn until she was too shagged out to be marketable to the general audience. Instead, her career actually had bloomed. Audiences, mostly video rentals, were growing more and more demanding of this openly transgender up-and-comer. The non-porn watching citizens were either blissfully unaware or considered it all a publicity stunt and ignored her for a large part. Small comforts and all that they prevail. The money was enough to keep her debtors at bay and as long as she continued to make payments the original offence of owing which lead to her transition would be “forgotten.”
Her <former> wife, pre-transition, accepts a No Contest divorce and custody of their daughter without seeking support. She wanted to get the child as far away from the world of perversion and degradation as she could. Until she learned about the money Ginger was making. Another hand in her pocket.
The director refused to continue. The assistant director called it a scrub and started ordering the set be broken down. Mr. Hammer trodden off to the bathroom with a slight smile on his face. Ginger slipped on a robe provided by a production assistant and sat on the edge of the bed quietly. She was sore and tired. The gleam had left her eyes. She felt old. Used. Eventually she got into the shower. The warm water soothed her aches but the tired remained. She had to force herself not to cry but the tears came anyway. The water washed them away as soon as they appeared. It wasn’t long before she was sobbing and sliding down the wall into the tub. Curled into a fetal position, she wept until her eyes ran dry.
“How’s Melody?” Ginger asked as she drove down the slow, congested highway. The car stereo was set to Bluetooth so she can drive and talk at the same time.
A shrill voice responded bitterly, “She’s looking forward to seeing you this weekend.” The voice was rough from cigarettes and alcohol. ” She loves her ‘Aunt’ Ginger. Stupid little shit.”
“Don’t take your anger over my out on her.” Ginger fired back angrily. ” She doesn’t deserve it!”
“Here we go again! You telling me how to raise MY daughter!”
“I’m not telling you what to do, Shelly! I’m just saying if you’re pissed at me, take it out on me! For God’s sake, she’s just a kid!”
“She’s twelve going on slut, you fucking faggot! Oh, for your information, the bank called….I need your signature to finalize the mortgage arrangements. YOUR signature not ‘The Whore’s!” Her nickname for Ginger since the change.
“Did you really need a second one? Seriously, Shelly, I give you what I can. You know what will happen if Tony doesn’t get his upfront? I care about you and Melody.”
“You should have thought of that before you got up to your ass with him. I told you not to deal with that son of bitch but you thought you knew better! Just like always! Maybe you should have offered him a free one. Maybe you could have paid him with blowjobs!”
Shelly laughs. “Have you offered recently? Who wouldn’t want head from a star?”
Traffic had formed into a mass of metal and smog. Ginger was surrounded and yet horribly alone. She sighed and continued softly, “I’ll pick her up at eight.” She turned off the phone before her ex could respond.
Taylor Moore paces impatiently across Ginger’s living room awaiting her arrival. She is barely in the door before he turns on her. His eyes are wild and he is obviously been using something. She’s taken aback at his rude advance and tries to wiggle free.
“What the fuck?!?!” She exclaims pushing at her assailant.
Taylor grips her tighter. “He knows! The little shit knows!” His speech is barely comprehensible and hurried with panic.
Ginger manages to get free. She is frustrated and not in the mood for any more crap from anyone. “Taylor, smoke some weed and calm down. Who is ‘he’?”
Taylor paces some more and finally stops to light a cigarette. “Howell. Thurston mother-fucking Howell. The man who practically owns half of Washington, Wall Street, and God only knows what else!” He takes a long drag and slows down. “I got the job.”
Ginger strips off her coat and sits on the couch. “That’s great! You really wanted this! Private pilot is a big deal!”
“Yeah. But it just seems too easy. He called me personally.”
“Come sit down.” She pats a spot next to her. He moves to sit where she indicated. “He’s very picky. You’re a damn good flyer. Your record is spotless. Well, mostly.” They both laugh.
“You know he’s only picking me because he knows about us, right? He wants you for himself. Figures he’ll keep me busy shuttling that bitch wife of his off to Italy or France or Timbuktu so he can spend more time with you.”
“You’re retarded! Your jealousy is charming, Mr. Moore, but I assure you I will always find time for you!” They embrace and kiss. “Now, do you have any of whatever you’re on? I really need a break.”
He shakes his head. “What you need is a long bath and a nap.”
She sighs. “Already had a bath.” She quips sharply with a grin.” Come on! I need something to take this edge off. Today was a shit show.”
He nods and stands. “Got something new. You’ll love it” he says flatly before disappearing into the bedroom. After a few minutes he returns with a small vial filled with a gray liquid. He hands it to Ginger, who in turn frowns noticeably.
“Whoa. I don’t shoot junk. You know this.” Her tone is angry but controlled.
“Relax,” Taylor responds cheerfully but subdued, “You drink it. Like a shot of whiskey. Course I wouldn’t recommend mixing that with booze though. Guy in Jersey City tried that. They say he may come out of the coma eventually…”
Ginger sits upright suddenly, holding the vial as far away as she can from herself. “Fuck! This shit is toxic!!!”
Taylor laughs loudly. “I’m messin’ with you, you goon! It’s totally safe. Some chemist guy in like Hawaii or some place cooked it up. It’s called Quicksilver. Distilled from berries or some such. Non-addictive but will wipe out a bull elephant. ”
“So the name is just cleverly ironic? A Downer that is named after a super fast hero.”
“Wow. You are such a geek. Mercury is also called quicksilver too, smart-ass.”
She squints at the vial closely. “I know that, asshole. If I get sick, I will make an honest effort to puke all over you.”
They both laugh. He explains that the fluid can be drunk straight or mixed with virtually anything liquid. It, of course, hasn’t been tested by the Food and Drug Administration so it’s commonly sold as an ‘alternative supplement’ on the Dark Web. Truth is, it’s potency makes it almost a heroin substitute without the negative side effects.
She pops the cap off and takes one last look. “And where did you score this ‘Wonder of the Ages’?”
“Old man Howell. Or, should I say, his wife. She hooked me up with a guy who knows a guy. We’ll talk about it later. Bottom’s up!”
Ginger pauses. “Well, Lovey, cheers to you.” She downs the vial. It’s sweet but not in an overwhelming way. Subtle hints of different fruit and berry flavors with something oddly metallic just underneath. Maybe Taylor lied about there not being Mercury in it? Too late now. The cotton candy rush hits her hard and fast. A warmth washes over her as the drug races through her system. Her body slides into a slack almost heavy state. Her eyes flutter and she slips away into a fuzzy cloud of color and soft light.Then darkness and dreaming.
A small child is playing in a closet. It’s a young boy, five or six years old. He’s wearing a woman’s nightgown and a floppy hat obviously too large for his head. The child slips on a pair of high-heeled shoes and proceeds to march, awkwardly, out of the closet, into a bedroom, then a hallway, and finally the living room. A man and a woman are sitting watching an older model television. A black and white movie featuring solders from a past war are exchanging gunfire with an unseen enemy. The child clumsily trots in and flops down in front of the couch on the floor. The hat obscures the view. The man growls loudly at the child to ‘take that damn thing off’ and proceeds to berate the woman as to the origin of the child’s parentage. She argues back that the child is his and is just going through ‘a stage’. Kids do it all the time. The man retorts that kids who aren’t ‘right in the head’ also eat dog turds and grow up to be prissy Liberal English teachers or Blood-Sucking Lawyers. The child watches his parents fight and begins to cry. The man, frustrated at the current presentation, rises and storms off into the kitchen proclaiming some half-muttered grumble about getting a beer and mental help for his wife. The mother soothes the child and tells him everything will be fine and to watch the movie like a good girl should. The child smiles and turns to watch the film.
A boy, ten or eleven, sits uncomfortably on a bench outside of an office. He plays with a Princess Leia action figure for a while and then puts it in his pocket. Frank Speilmen School Counselor is written on the frosted glass. Inside the office, three people are having an increasingly heated conversation.
“Your son is perfectly fine for a boy his age. I only asked to talk with you because he’s been acting progressively more and more withdrawn of late. How are things at home? Any changes in his environment? A pet perish recently, or a relative with whom he was attached?” Frank Speilmen asked in that concerned rehearsed way all counsels are taught.
The father, red-faced and obviously frustrated speaks first. “The damn boy’s not right! He plays with dolls and walks around like the goddamned Queen of fucking England! Other day I caught the little fucker sneaking some of his mother’s makeup and hiding it so nobody could find it! What the living hell is that about?!?!”
The mother, calm as a Tibetan calf, continues, “He’s been doing things like that since I don’t remember when. It’s charming, really. He’d put on little plays or pageants. Just adorable.”
Hearing this the father explodes. “You see what I gotta live with! My son’s growing up to be a full-blown Nancy and she’s fine with it! It’s that brother of hers…the man’s had more ‘seamen’ in him than a submarine! Bet your sweet Aunt Betty’s garter he’s probably poked that little nutcase when we aren’t watching and soaked his brain with fag juice! If I had a half a mind, I’d plant that dandy six feet under!” Makes a gun shape with his index finger and thumb. “Blam! One more for The Devil’s backyard.”
The Counselor inserts himself. “Violence is not the answer. Your son is experiencing a healthy curiosity, that’s all. Many boys his age go through this. Especially pre-pubescent ones. He’ll adjust once his hormones start to balance themselves. I was concerned because his teachers have been noticing an increasing tendency towards not responding to questions and a slight decline in his socialization with the other children. His grades are actually quite impressive given the circumstances.”
The Mother smiles broadly. “He’s always been a smart child. Very bright. Gets that from his grandfather. He died after a fifty year long career as a Music teacher. All his students went on to do great things.” Her voice is cheery but robotic. Her eyes tell a different story. They are red from crying and slightly swollen from years of withheld sadness. A woman who is trapped and can’t cry for help.
The father, however, is a powder-keg. “What do you mean by ‘circumstances’?” He leans uncomfortably towards the counselor. The veins in his neck pulsating like an over-clocked pump. “You trying to insinuate something? Yeah, I know a few of them twenty-five cent words too. Like eviscerate. Vivisection. Testicular Torsion. You got something to say about how I raise my own you best keep it to your ownself. I work hard all goddamn day to feed her and that fruit pie. I don’t need no ‘High Speak’ bullshit about hormones! I ain’t laid a single hand on my wife nor my child and do not appreciate some college drop-out dancing around calling me out. You got a problem? Lets step outside and settle this like a man should!”
The school’s exterior. A loud crash. Shouting. A quick jump to the father being loaded into the back of a police car.
The mother stands with her arm around her son who watches his father struggle against the arresting officers and listens to a seemingly endless rant about liberals, homosexuals, the economy, the state of education in America, and several veiled threats to the officers themselves involving bodily functions and power tools. Frank Speilmen sits on the curb with an ice pack nursing a rapidly developing black eye.
A young man, seventeen, is kissing a girl of an equivalent age under the bleachers at a high school. The young man is awkward but seems to be enjoying himself. The girl is eager and returns the affections with earnest.
“I can’t believe you got the lead in Twelfth Night! That’s so awesome!” The girl exclaims joyfully.
The young man retorts proudly. “Of course I did! Old man McGregor said I was ‘born to play the part!’ It’s going to be the center point of the Fall season showcase.” He throws a flourish with his hands and does a short bow.
The girl giggles. “Stop that! Do you think your parents will come? I know how they are about…you know. It is a play about dudes dressing up as girls.”
“First off, in Shakespeare’s time, women weren’t allowed to be actors so all the roles were played by men. Secondly, it’s my father who has the problem. And, if I recall, he’s been banned from school grounds since freshman year.”
“Oh yeah…he completely went mental when you signed up for Home Economics instead of Auto Shop. What a tool!”
The young man draws a slow hand down the girl’s side following the soft curve of her body. Her heart is pounding like a freight train. “Speaking of…” He whispers into her ear as his hand clutches her buttocks tightly.
“Oh My God!” She whispers back. “And I was thinking he only liked me for my mind.”
“You know people generally wear black to funerals.” The roommate says in a noticeably catty way. Ginger stands in front of a full length mirror admiring the way the dress hangs off her frame.
“Normal people dress that way.” She retorts. “I am far from normal and want to look fabulous when they put that bastard six feet under!” She spins in place, watching as the hem of the dress swirls like a violet maelstrom. “Besides, purple is the color of healing.”
The roommate lets out a loud snort. “For bruises maybe. When I came out to my parents they were relived I wasn’t a serial killer. My father even cried tears of absolute joy. Then again he did cry a lot anyway because of the bi-polar but I’ll take what I can get. Yours locked up and died from a heart attack.”
“He’s been having that heart attack for twenty something years. You can’t pin that on me!” They both laugh. Ginger joins her roommate on the bed. They lay back and stare at the ceiling wistfully.
“Marci called again. I swear she’s got a wicked case of crabs because the bug up her ass must have been lonely!”
“I’m a single gay man, darling. It’s part of my programming. Of all the hotties in the world, why did you ask that one to marry you? No wait, first is first, does she even know about….’the other woman’?”
Ginger sighs deeply. “She makes me happy.”
“Coppers and Poppers Night at Charlotte’s Web makes me happy but I don’t want to live there.”
“Isn’t that the Leather Daddy meet and greet?”
“Better a bitch than a tight-assed witch!” More laughter.
“Seriously, weren’t you just telling me the other day how you lost your cherry under the bleachers back at Hell’s Pit High? God, you were such a man-whore. Why settle down now? You’ve got one more semester and an Off-Broadway show waiting for your sorry ass to graduate so you can finally leave this dreary place and go be a star!”
“You assume I was the ‘guy’ in the story. Billy Riggs was more of a freak than you remember.”
The roommate sits up on one elbow and confronts Ginger. “I had such a wicked crush on him. Damn you. You miserable slut.” He frowns. “So you’ve walked the wild side for quite a while then. What really hurts is I’m just learning this now! I thought we were besties for life! Sob. Sob. I can’t go on!” He mocks drinking poison. “Urk. Ach. Blarg.”
Ginger sits up hands raised to the sky. “Oh lordy! Oh Lordy! My best friend has died because I lived a secret life! Strike me down before I ruin another innocent life with my wanton ways!”
“Either that was Scarlet O’Hare having really bad menstrual cramps or somebody in New York is obviously deaf.” The roommate states with his eyes closed and arms crossed on his chest. “I’d call the police but I’m dead and ghosts can’t use phones.”
Ginger lays her head on her friends stomach. “I’m sorry. I just didn’t know how to tell you. I’ve always felt this way. I’m a woman. It’s who I am.”
The roommate slides a gentle hand on top of Ginger’s head. ” Sssh. I forgive you. Marci, however, may not feel the same way.”
Ginger awakens feeling strangely refreshed. Whatever tired she was feeling had been replaced by a surge of energy. Ever get a B-12 shot? Pair it with a IV drip feed of Red Bull. She slides off the couch and cleans the apartment. Twice. Taylor wakes up to find her returning from a long jog. She’s sweating and out of breath but still can’t seem to calm down.
“Oh God! It’s like being on coke but…I don’t know…better?” She chirps with joy. She’s practically glowing. “Got anymore?”
Taylor shakes his head. “Sorry babe. Last one. Was saving it for this weekend. I got a long haul and needed the boost.” He deliberately talks like a small child trying to gain sympathy. “You eat it all up!”
Ginger smiles. “Oh? Me sooo sorry! What can Mama do to makes it all better?” She moves to embrace him. They kiss and slowly sink back down to the couch. Hours pass. Taylor, spent, pulls himself away and flops on his back.
“Jesus, what got into you?”
“Like you need to ask?” Ginger is happy. “Seriously, I’ve never known you not to go without. You’re rat-holing and I want more. This stuff is amazing! I feel fucking energized! Please don’t tell me how hard I’m going to crash because I seriously want to feel like this forever!”
“Well,” He begins slowly, “There is a slight side effect…this glow will fade into a cotton candy haze for a bit. Then you’ll level out. Next time don’t drink the whole thing all at once.”
“Now you tell me! Asshole.”
“Hey, you looked like a dumpster fire had hate sex with a wet pile of newspapers. Listen, if you really want some more you’re going to have to do me a favor.”
“First one’s free. You are such a cliché. If it means I can feel like this all the time, without getting hooked, you know damn well I’m down. What’s the plan, Stan?”
Taylor pauses for as moment. “I know a guy who’s plugged in to a mainline supply but he needs somebody to move product. I gotta fly the old bastard and his wife to the tropics so they can catch a cruise or some shit. What I need is somebody to meet my contact and make the exchange. Howell’s paid off a couple of inspectors so he could move some serious capital. I figure we just slip in and move our stuff out before people start asking questions. ”
“How much is in it for me?”
“Once we unload, you can buy off those goons five times over! I already have a whole infrastructure set up! All I need is the product.”
“All you have to do is sit around and wait for a phone call. I’ll be up to my ass in paperwork and refueling the plane.”
“Okay. Okay. What else do I need?”
“How much luggage do you own?”
Ginger finishes the rest of her tea. The flavor is so familiar. Like an old friend’s voice. Then it hits her. Quicksilver. It tastes like the drug. Only not as strong. Lovey and the Professor stare as she downs the rest of her mug. They seem intrigued by her story. She asks for more and inquires as to where the tea came from. She tries not to comment on the odd decorations. Especially the brain in the jar. The Professor was always a weird guy. This is just par for the course.
“They’re called Ju-Tu Berries.” Gilligan says from the entrance of the cave. He is silhouetted by the Sun forming a corona of light around him. “They grow all over the island. I prefer the juice, but to each their own. You guys should get dressed. You’re late for Jan’s party. She gets really upset when people are rude.”